Saturday, July 3, 2010

JOHANNESBURG(AP) Spain found just enough of the beautiful game - and a touch of good luck - to advance to the World Cup semifinals, beating Paraguay 1-0 on Saturday night.

David Villa took the tournament scoring lead with his fifth goal, which banked in off both posts in the 83th minute. The goal finished off a brilliant, three-way passing combination that typifies the way the European champions like to play. It sent Spain into the World Cup's final four for the first time in 60 years.
Spain faces Germany on Wednesday in Durban - a reprise of its 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final.

Paraguay's players couldn't have been more relaxed before the game, smiling and waving to TV cameras as they came off their bus, then talking on cell phones and joking around on the pitch 90 minutes before kickoff.
The Spaniards were more matter-of-fact, in direct contrast to their playing style. They gathered in a circle and chatted, only occasionally giving a wave to their fans as the stadium began to fill.

Once the match began, Paraguay had Spain off-balance, getting a dangerous scoring chance by Jonathan Santana in the opening minute. Rarely did the Spaniards cross midfield with possession.
But that soon changed as Spain began stringing together passes and dominating possession, looking for a breakthrough. It nearly came on a superb individual effort by Xavi, who took a pass and in one motion, pivoted to send a shot that soared just over the crossbar.
But most of the connections led nowhere, particularly on a dozen set pieces the Spaniards wasted. They left the field after a scoreless first half gesturing at each other in frustration and lucky to be tied at 0-0.
The difference in the frenzied second half were Villa and Casillas.


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